Unlocking the Potential of Executives
Many senior managers reach their level because they are talented individuals who have performed well and have become a valued technical expert in their field. This is known as promotion on the basis of “craft skills.” However, this often means that the critical skills, behaviours and attitudes required of senior leaders either needs to be acquired whilst ‘on the job’ or is ignored completely. Very often this leads to performance and productivity concerns at an enterprise level.
The OPG has assessed hundreds of executives either as part of a due diligence process pre hire, as a capability assessment as part of an internal review, or as part of our executive assessment and coaching. This has enabled us to analyse what good looks like and consequently we have devised our own model of leadership potential from which we can benchmark and develop capability.
Model of High Potential for Senior Leaders
The diagram above shows the eight areas our consultants assess through psychometric assessment, work simulations tools and/or 360 degree feedback and depth interviews. They do not represent areas for pass or fail, rather a holistic model of what success may look like for leadership potential.
Corporate Citizenship Behaviours
Senior leaders need to demonstrate the right attitudes to themselves and others. They need to understand the importance of being open, honest and authentic. Above all, they need to understand the importance of being supportive – both with their own team and the wider community. In short, people who are strong in this area go the extra mile and will demonstrate strong, ‘discretionary behaviours’ on a consistent basis.
Pre-acquisition of Skills
Successful executives acquire skills for the next role up as they progress through their career. They have the self-awareness to build their own skills portfolio without relying on corporate learning and development support. For example, appropriate professional qualifications and/or executive education. This demonstrates commitment, lifelong learning and continuing professional development.
Track Record of Achievement
This may sound obvious, but we often find candidates lack substance in terms of their actual ability and track record around making a difference. A good application or feedback process will identify positive track records, not just promotion records based on time served. Leadership potential is about being able to make a difference and having clarity around goals and objectives. These can then be demonstrated during the due diligence assessment.
In our experience this is the single biggest de-railer for senior executives. Change is the only constant, but many leaders and managers fail to embrace change and/or carry people with them. Managers who cannot change or find it overly challenging lack leadership potential in our experience and are often organisational blockers to change through their resistance and lack of buy-in.
Strong Network Leadership
Modern leadership is more than operating in a silo, it’s about leading the business using strong relationships both internally and externally. Collective, bottom up and facilitative sum up the approach. Our recent focus on helping client boards and executive teams to understand their skills in this area reveals a strong cultural challenge for many leaders. Team working within a silo no longer cuts the mustard.
Transactional & Transformational Leadership Skills
This is an essential skill set for leadership roles, yet many organisations simply ignore the need to assess, benchmark and measure these areas. Poor leadership is thought to account for 30% of all staff turnover. The well-worn phrase, “people leave their job because of their manager and not the company” is true. De-motivated staff do not engage with their employer’s business, they don’t provide discretionary work behaviours and are shown to be less productive. Research from The Institute of Employment Studies (2016) made the link between manager behaviour and productivity. Our own research supports the hypothesis that high performance work practices improves bottom line performance. Symptoms include high staff turnover, absenteeism and industrial relationship challenges.
Strong Cognitive Abilities
Extensive research shows that strong cognitive abilities around problem definition and solving, abstract reasoning, managerial judgement, verbal and numerical reasoning amongst other areas directly impact leadership. Tests of maximum performance using online tools and work sample tests are widely accepted to be good predictors of potential but are often not utilised in the workplace.
A poor leader has little comprehension of their behavioural impact on others and/or does not have the ability to understand the behaviours of others and the reasons for it. Often, they espouse their own narrative on how people should behave or simply ignore these aspects of leadership regardless of the situation and reality in the organisation. Often this can be described as a symptom of destructive leadership. They undermine the business, its people and destroy morale.
So how do you Facilitate Change?
Simply put, by building self-awareness amongst senior managers and helping to guide them through personal development planning, coaching and executive education programmes such as MBAs.
Our advice is to:
- Always use selective recruitment and selection methods using assessment where possible
- Have an effective on-boarding programme in place for the hire. Recently, we noticed that clients who have a comprehensive approach to on-boarding have a measurably positive impact on early performance
- Invest in regular assessment and performance reviews. Charting the journey from hire to promotion and beyond is important. Early intervention around behaviours and skills development needs pays dividends
- Reduce spend and time sending senior executives on, “sheep dip” training. It does not work
- Have a succession plan with a nine-box grid model or similar in place and consider the business strategy to ensure alignment
- Avoid promotion based on subjective criteria or past attainment alone. It is ineffective and prone to error
Want to know more?
If you’d like to have a call with our lead consultant, Matthew Davis, to discuss the Enterprise Leadership solution he can be contacted on 02380 236944 or 0207 288 2444 alternatively via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Matthew Davis is head of Talent Management at Ramsey Hall & The Occupational Psychology Group. He is also a part time Doctorial Researcher in Organisational Psychology at The University of Sheffield.